Assembly-driven protection from hydrolysis as key selective force during chemical evolution

Rotem Edri, Sarah Fisher, Cesar Menor-Salvan, Loren Dean Williams*, Moran Frenkel-Pinter*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The origins of biopolymers pose fascinating questions in prebiotic chemistry. The marvelous assembly proficiencies of biopolymers suggest they are winners of a competitive evolutionary process. Sophisticated molecular assembly is ubiquitous in life where it is often emergent upon polymerization. We focus on the influence of molecular assembly on hydrolysis rates in aqueous media and suggest that assembly was crucial for biopolymer selection. In this model, incremental enrichment of some molecular species during chemical evolution was partially driven by the interplay of kinetics of synthesis and hydrolysis. We document a general attenuation of hydrolysis by assembly (i.e., recalcitrance) for all universal biopolymers and highlight the likely role of assembly in the survival of the ‘fittest’ molecules during chemical evolution.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2879-2896
Number of pages18
JournalFEBS Letters
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. FEBS Letters published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Federation of European Biochemical Societies.


  • Recalcitrance
  • abiotic chemistry
  • biopolymers
  • chemical evolution
  • molecular evolution
  • origins of life
  • prebiotic chemistry
  • self-assembly


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